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Growing Lettuce in Pots, Lettuce Plant Care

Introduction for growing Lettuce in pots from seed

Container growing Lettuce is a common practice for small space gardeners such as apartment dwellers and home gardens. Lettuce is a cool-season crop and plant leaves develop best in cool but not chill temperatures. Growing Lettuce in containers also allows you to control weeds and pests easily than in a large gardening space and afford quick access when you want some leaves for a salad. In this article we also discuss below topics;

  • How long does Lettuce plant take to grow
  • Lettuce plant propagation
  • Lettuce plant care
  • Growing Lettuce from seed
  • Lettuce tree growing tips

A step by step guide to growing Lettuce plants in pots

Lettuce is one of the main vegetables that are easy to grow in pots. Growing Lettuce in pots is a great solution if you only have a small garden, balcony, and patio. If you can begin growing Lettuce indoors you are also able to get a head start on the growing season. Then, this means that you will be able to enjoy fresh salad leaves even earlier.

Choose Lettuce variety for indoors

Select a Lettuce variety that thrives indoors. Though most Lettuce plants can stay healthy indoors, you’ll have better success with some varieties over others. Buy any of these Lettuce varieties, which are known for growing well inside, from a garden center or a plant nursery;

  • Garden Babies
  • Merlot
  • Baby Oakleaf
  • Salad Bowl
  • Lollo Rosa
  • Black-Seeded Simpson
  • Tom Thumb
  • Red Deer Tongue

Choosing a pot for growing Lettuce

Almost all the Lettuce plant varieties grow well in pots. As their shallow roots don’t require deep soil, they do best in wide and shallow containers. The pot should have adequate drainage holes in the bottom and should be at least 6 inches deep. And, you can use any material for pots such as plastic, clay or terracotta pots.

Because they have shallow roots, Lettuce varieties will grow well in long and shallow containers. Then, they do need at least 6 inches of soil depth, so be sure to measure the pots you plan to use. You can also use circular pots that are at least 10 to 12 inches in diameter. Larger varieties will require a larger container and the material of the pots does not matter. Then, you can use plastic, terracotta, clay, etc. Just keep in mind that plastic is the lightest weight and will be easier to move when it’s filled with soil. One of the most important steps when choosing pots is making sure they have drainage holes in the bottom. Otherwise, your Lettuce plants are likely to become water-logged and unhealthy. If they aren’t already there, then you can drill drainage holes in the bottom of the material permits.

Make sure it has drainage holes and you can grow single heads in narrow pots, or grow multiple plants in a wide bowl. Use a fertile and easy-draining potting mix. Mulching the top of the mix will conserve moisture and keep an even temperature. Site your pots in full sun or part shade and maintain the potting mix evenly moist. As summer weather arrives, pull containers into more shade to keep the plant’s cooler. Fill a pot with a seed starting soil mix and seed starting mixes are lightweight, they help your plants’ roots grow, and they’re well-draining to prevent overwatering. If you cannot find a seed starting mix, you can also make a soil made from equal parts peat moss or coir, vermiculite, and sand.

Each Lettuce plant requires 4 to 6 inches of space and a depth of about 8 inches. Select a pot that can accommodate these measurements. Purchase pots with drainage holes on the bottom and place a saucer underneath the pot to catch draining water. Then, you can buy seed starting soil mixes from most plant nurseries or garden centers.

Soil requirement for growing healthy Lettuce

In case if you miss this: Growing Hydroponic Cactus.

Soil requirement for growing healthy Lettuce.
Soil requirement for growing healthy Lettuce.

For growing healthy Lettuce, then use a good quality soil mix that has plenty of organic matter, such as compost and peat. You can add well-rotted manure or compost additionally. The soil you use should be loamy and well-drained and doesn’t hold water too much.

Lettuce plant propagation for pots growing

Lettuce plants can be propagated by seeds. When propagated using the latter method, a stem of length about 15 cm needs to be planted in the ground and watered, and the plant will begin to germinate. However, Lettuce propagation by seeds is preferred as the yield is generally higher. Lettuce is a plant that is very easy to grow and is perfect for first-time gardeners who want to get a successful planting under their belt. It can be grown along with flowers as it can adjust to space requirements.

Starting Lettuce seeds indoors

  • If you choose to start seeds indoors, sow them in flats or starter trays about 3 to 4 weeks before you plan to transplant. Fill flats with a seed starting mix and place seeds about ¼ inches deep. Water the flats and place them somewhere cool, keeping in mind that Lettuce won’t germinate well at temperature ranges above 23°C.
  • Then, continue to keep the soil damp but not soaked. Once Lettuce seeds have germinated, move them under grow lights (fluorescent lights work fine), or place them in a sunny part of your home where they will get plenty of light. Once seedlings get this big, it’s time to harden them off before you transplant them into pots.
  • You’ll want to make sure the soil does not dry out because new seedlings don’t have a very big root system. Then, water the soil around the seedlings gently. Try to avoid getting the leaves wet since this invites the growth of unfriendly pathogens that can kill new plants. Good air circulation is one of the best methods to prevent seedling-killing conditions such as damping off.
  • About 2 to 3 days before your planned planting time, start hardening off your seedlings. Take them outside for a few hours each day but bring them back inside at night. Keep them out of intense sunlight for long periods and any extremely cold temperature ranges. In shallow pots, you can need to water frequently so that the plant will not dry out completely. Make sure that you not only keep the soil slightly moist but also avoid overwatering container-grown Lettuces as overwatering can kill the plants due to root rot.

Process of Growing Lettuce in a container

Growing Lettuce in containers needs the right type of pot and planting medium. Start by deciding how many plants you want in each of the pots. As a general rule of thumb, space seedlings 4 to 6 inches apart if you plan to harvest frequently. If you are growing head Lettuce that needs to fully mature before being harvested, you’ll need to space plants 12 to 18 inches apart. A simple tip is to use small stones to lay out how you think you want the planting to end up and that way you can work out the spacing before digging up any dirt.

Use a professional soil mix for planting Lettuce in container situations, as the mix is formulated to hold water and give nutrients. A soil mix is peat or compost, soil, and either vermiculite or perlite for water retention. You’ll need about 1 to 3 ½ gallons of soil depending on the size of your container. Select a Lettuce mix marked “cut and come again” for repeat harvests. Some recommended plant varieties for growing Lettuce in pots are Black Seeded Thompson and red or green oak leaf types. Then, loose-leaf Lettuces are better suited to pots than head Lettuce.

The important resource when growing Lettuce in containers is water. Lettuce has shallow plant roots and responds best to consistent, shallow watering. Plants grown in the garden need at least an inch per week; Lettuce in pots needs a bit more. Numerous pests enjoy Lettuce as much as you do. Combat them with blasts of water or insecticidal soap; and for slugs, trap them with containers of beer. Water your Lettuce plant whenever the leaves wilt. Lettuce leaves visibly wilt when they are thirsty. If plant’s leaves droop, water the Lettuce until its soil is moist, but not soaking wet or waterlogged. The hotter the temperatures, the more often you will need to water your Lettuce plant.

Fertilize Lettuce about 3 weeks after planting it. Lettuce plant needs nitrogen-rich soil to grow, so spray liquid fertilizer on the plant 3 weeks after you planted it, or when the first leaves grow on the plant. Spray the fertilizer mainly near the soil, avoiding the Lettuce plant leaves to prevent burning them. Use a liquid fertilizer. Granular fertilizers require to be mixed into the soil. Organic alfalfa meal or a nitrogen-rich, slow-release fertilizer both work well with Lettuce plants. You can also use fish and seaweed emulsion fertilizers but they can emit a strong odor and are less recommended for indoor Lettuce plants.

Lettuce plant care while growing in pots

One week before planting the Lettuce seeds in the ground, work in some compost or organic material in the soil, to keep it well-fed to promote the fast growth of the Lettuce seedlings. Lettuce plant requires a fertilizer that is high in humus and nitrogen. Select a slow-acting fertilizer to apply to the soil three weeks after planting. The important thing is to conserve the moisture of the soil. As the Lettuce plant leaves are large, lots of water can be lost due to transpiration, so check leaves regularly and water them when they look a little wrinkled or dry.

Pests – The usual pests which affect the Lettuce plants are aphids, which can be prevented by regular watering soil inspection. White mold is a fungal disease that can affect your Lettuce crop. This is caused by a lack of oxygen, so keep your soil moist, but well-drained as well. Growing Lettuces in containers need care from leaf-eating insects. Though, if the plants are healthy there are fewer chances of infestation of pests or diseases. Mildew, leaf spot, rot, and a variety of bacterial infections are common diseases that can attack Lettuce plants. In pests and insects such as caterpillars, cutworms, aphids, maggots, and beetles can cause damage to the Lettuce plant.

Lettuce harvesting

The Lettuce plant is generally harvested when it is young, as the more mature the leaves get, the more bitter they get in taste. It is possible to harvest the leaves twice, by simply picking the outer leaves on the first harvest, letting the inner leaves grow, and cutting the entire Lettuce plant the second time. This plant is usually harvested around 65-100 days after planting.

Once the Lettuce leaves have reached the height of 4-6 inches (the baby green size perfect for cut and come again method) or according to your desired size, either pick the outer leaves individually or harvest them by cutting the leaves off 1 inch from above the base or crown (Must remember, don’t cut into or below the crown or else your plant will die). This way the Lettuce plant will grow back and you’ll be able to harvest it again.

Carefully harvest Lettuce in the early morning. Exposure to the sun and hen heat can wilt tender leaves. Cutting them when they are in distress can damage the Lettuce plant. The Lettuce plants (not head Lettuces) will continue to replace leaves you eat until bolting. After harvesting, wash Lettuce and allow to air dry. Then, store in the refrigerator.

Commonly asked questions about growing Lettuce in pots

You may also check this: Growing Celery Hydroponically.

Commonly asked questions about growing Lettuce.
Commonly asked questions about growing Lettuce.
How long does it take to grow Lettuce?

Most Lettuce plant varieties mature in 45 to 55 days, allowing many gardeners to plant two or even three crops. But looseleaf and butterhead plant leaves can be harvested at just about any time in their development. Heading plan varieties take longer to mature. Romaine takes 75 to 85 days and crisphead about 70 to 100 days.

Will Lettuce regrow after cutting?

Lettuce plants will die back, but most leaf-Lettuce plants renew efforts to produce leaves if regularly watered after trimming. Results will be smaller than the original plant, but you may be able to harvest a second, good-tasting crop within as little as two weeks.

Can you stop Lettuce from bolting?

To prevent bolting, planting leafy Lettuces in the spring and continually harvesting (cutting them back) during the year will prevent bolting. For head lettuce, such as iceberg, consider planting them as a fall crop then they mature as the weather is cooling.

Why is my Lettuce dying?

Insufficient soil moisture or overly wet soil can both result in poor plant growth and wilting. Lettuce plants suffering from drought stress wilts quickly and fails to put on new growth. Wet and soggy soil causes the roots to drown and rot. Leaves can begin to yellow and wilt or the whole plant may become stunted.

What does it mean when Lettuce turns pink?

Pink Lettuce is linked to something called a pink rib, which is when the “ribs” of Lettuce heads turn from white to pink color. This can happen when the Lettuce is “over mature” or stored at high-temperature ranges.

The conclusion of growing Lettuce in Pots

Lettuce is wonderful salad greens and can be easily grown indoors, terrace, apartment balcony, and in the backyard. If you want to grow organic lettuce, you can use organic compost.


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